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Monsters University Trailer


All Mike Wazowski dreams of is graduating from the prestigious Monsters University and becoming one of the world's best scarers. However, college doesn't go as swimmingly as he'd hoped, especially when he crosses paths with the large, hairy and extremely arrogant James P. 'Sulley' Sullivan who is also majoring in scaring and becomes his roommate. They are constantly attempting to get one up on each other and their competitiveness puts them seriously under threat of getting removed from the University's Scare Program. In order to stay on the course and graduate, they must work as a team in the dangerous Scare Games alongside their not so competent friends, the Oozma Kappa. With Mike and Sulley being total opposites of each other, they each possess what the other is missing which makes them, in theory, the perfect dream team.

Continue: Monsters University Trailer

Monsters University Trailer


Professional 'scarers' at Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan (nicknamed Mike and Sulley) haven't always been so scary. 'Monsters University' tells the story of the duo's time at the University of Fear, about ten years previous, where they took their education in scaring children and often practised on each other with various college pranks that obviously united them in the end.

Continue: Monsters University Trailer

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Review


Excellent
Kevin Clash is one of America's most popular performers, and yet he's rarely recognised in public. This wonderfully engaging documentary catches us off guard with a warm and honest portrayal of an extraordinarily generous man who has never lost his childlike wonder.

Growing up in Baltimore, Clash was transfixed when Sesame Street launched in 1969 and introduced the original Muppets. Watching Jim Henson explain how they worked made Clash want to join them. After chopping up his dad's coat to make a puppet, he began putting on shows for the neighbourhood. And audiences responded. While still a teen, he became a local TV celebrity. Then at 17 he met legendary puppet builder, Kermit Love, who taught him the secrets of the business and introduced him to Henson.

Continue reading: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Review

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi Review


Extraordinary
I'll skip the cute introduction. Let me cut to the chase and tell you what you want to know.

Yes, the reissue is as good as the original. Yes, it lives up to the greatness of the rest of the series. Yes, the enhancements are top-notch and they really add to the enjoyment of the film.

Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi Review

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Review


Essential
Twenty years will make you forget how good a movie was.

I was excited to see the rerelease of The Empire Strikes Back, but I had forgotten about how masterful the film is realized, and I had especially forgotten what it looked like on the big screen.

Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Review

The Dark Crystal Review


Good
Is there such a thing as a children's cult film? The Dark Crystal may be as close as we have, but Jim Henson and Frank Oz's collaboration won't keep many of today's kids entertained for long. Kooky creatures are the lasting legacy of the film; the story doesn't inspire much excitement -- as one puppet (whose mouth barely moves when he talks) is tasked with healing a broken crystal and thus thwarting the impending rule of a gang of other, evil puppets. His journey takes the form of an almost casual stroll through his magical kingdom, as he encounters one outlandish creature after another en route to victory. Overly simplistic, I'll frankly take Labyrinth when it comes to fantasy puppet movies.

Zathura Review


Bad

In Zathura, a board game magically comes alive when played, thrusting its participants into a wild adventure through outer space. Based on a children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, Zathura shares a striking resemblance to another Van Allsburg book turned movie called Jumanji. Each film centers on kids who get sucked into oddly-titled-board games gone wild. While the concept works magically on paper, the translation to film has not been so successful. Marginal special effects and a heavy-handed dead-end plot crippled Jumanji. And unfortunately, Zathura suffers from the same problems as its predecessor.

In the film, pre-teen brothers Danny and Walter (Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson) are always at odds with each other. Because Walter is a few years older and more independent, he wants nothing to do with Danny. But Danny is full of energy and desperate for some attention. Yet, everyone else in his broken family is sadly unavailable. Danny's older sister (Kristen Stewart) is too consumed with teenage boys; his dad (Tim Robbins) is too wrapped up with this work; and his mom is only available for selected visitation periods. What Danny wants most is to play with his brother.

While spending the weekend at their dad's creepy old house, a bored Danny finds a game called Zathura tucked away under the basement stairs. The game seems simple enough -- turn a key, push a button, and a card pops out with instructions on how to move your game piece. But because Walter thinks Danny cheats at board games, he's unwilling to participate and Danny must play alone. His first card warns of a meteor shower. Moments later, a heavy barrage of meteors attack the house and the boys are forced to take cover in the fireplace. Once the storm passes, Danny and Walter are shocked to find their house magically floating through space on a pile of rocks, dirt, and debris. Each new card that Danny and Walter draw brings them closer to the game's end, but also triggers a new series of frightening events for them to encounter.

Zathura -- Game on!

And what a boring game it turns out to be once it actually gets started! Zathura spends a ridiculous amount of time at the beginning to establish the fact that the boys hate each other. For nearly 30 minutes, we're subject to non-stop, obnoxious yelling and screaming between Danny and Walter. Then, once the house is in space, the arguing continues as the pair decide how to combat an out of control robot with circular saw blade hands and heat-seeking alien lizards with sharp teeth. The meager special effects creations are far from intriguing or memorable. They look like cheap imitations of scarier monsters from other movies, which may be too much for some younger children to handle.

In the end, Zathura is such a mess that the backstory it spends time developing is completely ignored. The film is so consumed with throwing whatever it can at these boys that they're never afforded a believable chance to reconcile their relationship. Kids may not care, but adults who believe Zathura will teach kids a lesson on working together should pass on this space trash.

Adventure is waiting. Literally.

The Great Muppet Caper Review


Very Good
"Great?" I'm not sure about that, but this minor kiddie classic is reasonably entertaining, if only for the chance to see Charles Grodin falling in love for a stuffed pig.

The film opens with amazing promise: Immediately dazzling us with a plethora of Hollywood in-jokes (the poking of fun begins with Kermit and Fozzie mocking the opening credits). A musical number ensures us of the myriad thrills and chills that will soon arrive.

Continue reading: The Great Muppet Caper Review

The Great Muppet Caper Review


Very Good
"Great?" I'm not sure about that, but this minor kiddie classic is reasonably entertaining, if only for the chance to see Charles Grodin falling in love for a stuffed pig.

The film opens with amazing promise: Immediately dazzling us with a plethora of Hollywood in-jokes (the poking of fun begins with Kermit and Fozzie mocking the opening credits). A musical number ensures us of the myriad thrills and chills that will soon arrive.

Continue reading: The Great Muppet Caper Review

The Muppet Christmas Carol Review


OK
Well, the Muppets have taken their turn at just about every other story known to man, why not Dickens' A Christmas Carol, too? Unfortunately, talking animal puppets and a largely cold drama don't really mix, and this strange melange of kiddie flick and Christmas fable never quite comes together.

Case in point: Charles Dickens, who narrates this film himself, is played by -- get this -- Gonzo. He's not a writer, he's a lamplighter who takes a break from his work to tell the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), the famous miser who (in this version) wants to give Bob Crachit (played by Kermit the Frog) a mere half-hour off for Christmas and is the subject of jokes at local gatherings. People and puppets mix at random here. Unlike in films like The Muppet Movie, where the puppets are on a crusade to reach Hollywood and the humans encompass only characters they encounter on the way, The Muppet Christmas Carol blends both together. It's a little freaky to see them all sitting together -- in British period dress, too -- around the Christmas dinner table.

Continue reading: The Muppet Christmas Carol Review

Muppets From Space Review


Good
Many critics will disagree with me, but I'm of the opinion that the Muppets, as characters, can do no wrong. Each Muppet has well-developed, quirky traits that make people of all ages love them. And that is what saved this film.

Unlike most of the other Muppet films, our featured star in this particular one is Gonzo. As we all know, Gonzo is a "Whatever", but this explanation of his species is no longer good enough for the long-nosed freak. He longs for family, and the satisfaction of knowing what he is. Then no sooner than you can say, "Wakka-Wakka", Gonzo's origins begin to reveal themselves. And they do this, ever so appropriately, through his breakfast cereal (well I thought it was funny).

Continue reading: Muppets From Space Review

Trading Places Review


Excellent
Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd have made some bad movies in their day, but Trading Places is one of their respective bests.

Now legendary, the film has been referenced and homaged to an extent matched by few other recent films. It's a classic story: Greedy Phildadelphia commodity brokers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (the inimatable Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) bet the sum of $1 on a "scientific experiment," namely that they can depose their successful managing director Louis (Aykroyd) and replace him with a common street bum named Valentine (Murphy).

Continue reading: Trading Places Review

The Muppet Movie Review


Excellent
Like most movies of its year, The Muppet Movie looks (and is) really dated. But it's worth it to willingly suspend disbelief at how dated it is --- to appreciate the good-natured humor and comedic flair of Jim Henson. Henson tried to entertain both kids and adults, and though both audiences were probably easier to please in the days before all comedy became irony-soaked, Henson was one of the first to add sly postmodern touches. And while the movie promotes the annoying myth of Hollywood as the dream factory, magic store, etc. it more than makes up for it by borrowing comedians from several generations, from then-new comics like Steve Martin and Elliott Gould to veterans like Bob Hope and Orson Welles(!), for an endless string of cameo appearances.

The plot loosely follows the odyssey of Kermit the Frog from his swamp home to Hollywood in search of celebrity. The desirability of fame and stardom is never questioned. The Hollywood worship becomes pretty maudlin at the end, thanks mainly to songwriter Paul Williams, whose songs are palatable at first ("Rainbow Connection" was a hit) but become too much before the end of the movie.

Continue reading: The Muppet Movie Review

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith Review


Excellent
All good things must come to an end, and all sort-of mediocre things eventually peter out, too.

And so we're faced with the third Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith, simultaneously the most anticipated and dreaded film of the summer. Nearly a decade of hype, dashed expectations, and Jar-Jar Binks jokes have finally come down to this, Lucas's third Star Wars prequel and, by all accounts, the last Star Wars movie that will ever be made.

Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith Review

The Dark Crystal Review


Good
Is there such a thing as a children's cult film? The Dark Crystal may be as close as we have, but Jim Henson and Frank Oz's collaboration won't keep many of today's kids entertained for long. Kooky creatures are the lasting legacy of the film; the story doesn't inspire much excitement -- as one puppet (whose mouth barely moves when he talks) is tasked with healing a broken crystal and thus thwarting the impending rule of a gang of other, evil puppets. His journey takes the form of an almost casual stroll through his magical kingdom, as he encounters one outlandish creature after another en route to victory. Overly simplistic, I'll frankly take Labyrinth when it comes to fantasy puppet movies.

An American Werewolf In London Review


Extraordinary
In early February, I found myself at a pub in New York City. All right, so this is American and here we call pubs "bars", but, since I was with a bunch of Yorkshire Brits at the time, we called it a pub. Said pub, located somewhere in the Village (we had been walking about all day and had about zero clue where the hell we were, but I remember observing Dean & Deluca's just a bit before, which meant that NYU couldn't be far off), had a name that I should have immediately picked up on: "The Slaughtered Lamb."

Like the American backpackers in the movie from which "The Slaughtered Lamb" derives its name, I simply muttered "what the bloody hell kinda name for a pub is 'The Slaughtered Lamb'." Regardless, we entered. On the wall, by what may be perhaps the tiniest bathroom in all of Manhattan, is a poster of An American Werewolf in London.

Continue reading: An American Werewolf In London Review

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Review


Essential
Twenty years will make you forget how good a movie was.

I was excited to see the rerelease of The Empire Strikes Back, but I had forgotten about how masterful the film is realized, and I had especially forgotten what it looked like on the big screen.

Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back Review

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones Review


Good

Spider-Man's hype and box office may have stolen some of Episode II's thunder, but Attack of the Clones finally arrives, three years after its predecessor, The Phantom Menace, and picking up the story 10 years after that installment let off.

The story is considerably more convoluted this time out. Former Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) is now a senator in the Republic, and nefarious parties are repeatedly attempting to have her assassinated. Assigned to protect her are Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and a growing-up Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), now Obi-Wan's apprentice. Soon, Jedi bosses Yoda and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) split the two up: Obi-Wan is tasked with tracking down the bounty hunter who tried to kill Amidala (which turns out to be Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), father/clone of young Boba Fett). Anakin is tasked with serving as Amidala's bodyguard.

Obi-Wan scours a "secret" watery planet (there discovering a massing clone army allegedly purchased for the Republic ten years ago), and then tracks Jango to another planet, where he finds the opposition led by (try not to snicker) Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), who is amassing a droid army for war against the Republic.

Meanwhile, Amidala and Anakin fall in love (awwwwwwwwwwwww), but since she's a politician and he's a Jedi (bound to supress emotion -- which just ain't takin'), they have to keep their romance a secret (just like in The Bodyguard!).

Side stories galore take characters all over the galaxy far, far away... including the inevitable stop on Tatooine to help Anakin's mother and long spells on Coruscant, the 100%-urban capital planet.

On to the nagging questions: Foremost, Jar-Jar is back, and his part is not insubstantial; the character is as grating as ever. But all eyes are on Christensen, and he fills the shoes of Skywalker admirably, though he has apparently been given the sole direction to act like a really bratty teenager.

The use of CGI is on overload, and while many of the sets (real or digital) are quite successful, many of the backdrops are not -- notably the cheesy oceans on the clone planet and an especially flat cathedral-like hallway Yoda scoots through. When the CGI interacts with real-world elements (like when Anakin rides a fat sheep-like creature), the effect is about as believable as Barney being a real dinosaur.

Also out of place is the movie's silly patriotism, with frequent pontification about loving democracy (and this from a former queen -- albeit an "elected" queen... uh, okay) and the Republic. One speech actually includes the earnestly corny line, "The day we stop believing in democracy is the day we lose it!" I say the day Star Wars becomes nothing more than a political platform is the day we lose it.

At 2 1/2 hours in length, this installment is a bit long-winded and bladder-challenging (compared to 2:13 for Episode I and a little over 2 hours for A New Hope), but the decision to go "epic" at least makes room for lots of action when Amidala and Anakin aren't busy smooching. The action starts right at the beginning, with an impressive skycar chase through Coruscant, and ends with an equally smashing "big battle scene" that easily outdoes the one in Menace. Best of all, though, is the already famous Yoda light-saber battle, which is as funny as it is thrilling. That said, the pod race in Phantom is still probably the best action sequence in the series so far.

Less impressive are the talky parts, which haltingly attempt to create a romance between Amidala and Anakin. The love story just doesn't work and it's very awkward, maybe because George Lucas is simply out of touch with the realities of youthful romance, or maybe because the leads didn't have chemistry. I don't know for sure. I do know, however, that if Anakin Skywalker is going to play the cool outcast he shouldn't act like a baby around his would-be girlfriend. And Amidala's 11th hour confession of love comes completely out of left field, a necessary plot point because we know she has to eventually bear two kids by the guy.

In fact, much of Episode II feels like it's ticking off items to make sure we get to the appropriate state of the galaxy by the end of 2005's Episode III. There's still a long way to go -- Anakin has to turn evil and disfigured; Amidala has to have two kids, split them up, and have one become the princess of a planet still not introduced in the series; Yoda and Obi-Wan have to become hermits; and then there's the matter of the Death Star, which has to be built. Episode III is either going to be a complete disaster or a work of genius.

Altogether, the movie is enjoyable despite its nagging script inadequacies and crummy "down" scenes. The action is fun, the acting is good enough, and the direction is capable, if not inspired. If you're a die-hard Star Wars fan, you will like this better than Episode I (though I grade them roughly equal), but it still won't hold a candle to the earlier films.

But chances are when it's said and done, you aren't going to be talking about Episode II for its good things. An impromptu conversation with another filmcritic.com staffer set us off on a number of incongruities and simply baffling moments that might be pointing to Lucas's senility. For example: When did R2-D2 become able to fly? When did Obi-Wan become afraid of flying (or afraid of anything for that matter)? What's with Jimmy Smits and his Elizabethan collar? Since when does a Jedi Knight have to go to a library to figure out where a planet is? And why didn't Lucas get the hint about Jar-Jar Binks the first time around?

Mysteries of the universe, I tell ya.

The DVD answers few of these mysteries, with eight deleted scenes (see Natalie Portman lose her accent!) and various effects-oriented documentaries. There's even a trailer for a mockumentary about R2-D2. Amusing.

Teddy bears' picnic.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi Review


Extraordinary
I'll skip the cute introduction. Let me cut to the chase and tell you what you want to know.

Yes, the reissue is as good as the original. Yes, it lives up to the greatness of the rest of the series. Yes, the enhancements are top-notch and they really add to the enjoyment of the film.

Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi Review

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Review


OK
With all the spirit of its predecessors but none of the magic, "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" can ultimately be summed up with two expressions: "cool!" and "feh."

What's cool?

Continue reading: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Review

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Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back Trailer

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The Rebel Alliance struck a terrific blow to the Galactic Empire with the destruction of...

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Trailer

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. A trade dispute on the...

Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith Trailer

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After five long years, the Clone Wars are still raging across the galaxy. Count Dooku...

Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones Trailer

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Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Trailer

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Monsters University Trailer

Monsters University Trailer

All Mike Wazowski dreams of is graduating from the prestigious Monsters University and becoming one...

Monsters University Trailer

Monsters University Trailer

Mike and Sulley haven't always been the best of friends that we know they were...

Monsters University Trailer

Monsters University Trailer

Professional 'scarers' at Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan (nicknamed Mike and Sulley)...

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Movie Review

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Movie Review

Kevin Clash is one of America's most popular performers, and yet he's rarely recognised in...

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